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And we thought the U.S. government was obsessed with marriage! October 17, 2009

Posted by Onely in As If!, Look What Google Barfed Up.
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Felicia Strehmel, "Open Mind"

The U.S. government gives married couples over one thousand rights that singles don’t receive. I used to think this was matrimaniacal (perpetuating the misguided notion that marriage is unequivocably beneficial for individuals and society). But now I see that matrimania is all relative.

The Malaysian government is giving away free honeymoons to encourage troubled couples to stay together and avoid divorce, which according to Malaysian government official Ashaari Idris has “serious implications on society.” Idris works for the northeastern state of Terengganu, a tourist beach mecca with many island resorts. Couples can apply for a two-night stay at one of these resorts; the process includes an interview in which, I imagine, the pair details their relationship difficulties and how a weekend on the beach would help them:

“If I could just walk with him hand and hand along the sunny strand, I wouldn’t care that he doesn’t listen to me.”

“I’m sure that after we come back from the seaside, she’ll want to have my mother over for dinner more often.”

If I were a single Malaysian, I’d be standing at the desk of some Terengganu official, trying hard as hell to capitalize on this offer too:

“My relationship with myself hasn’t been great lately. I think I need to wade in the surf and reconnect with my core being.”


“As a single person, I naturally have very low self-esteem, which has serious implications on society. If I could only go sit in the sun and soak up a sense of self-worth, I won’t end up shooting from a belltower and in fact I might even start having goods-consuming babies.”

And just when I was thinking Malaysia was pretty matrimaniacal, look what Google barfed up: the Saudi government is giving away free wives to rehabilitated terrorists. Historian and writer Robert Lacey visited a terrorist rehabilitation center in Riyadh where he learned that the Ministry of the Interior will buy wives for (supposedly) reformed terrorists, at the cost of sixty thousand Riyals (around US$18,000) each.  That’s how much faith the Saudi government has in the power of marriage to make people better!

Discussion questions: Copious Readership, can a weekend on the beach repair a fraying relationship? Can having a wife keep a terrorist from going out at night with the boys to blow things up? Is there merit to these efforts at all?

Additional discussion question (non-rhetorical, per Rachel’s comment below):  Does anyone have other examples of matrimania in different countries? Does the matrimania of countries other than the U.S. make the US’ matrimania look less bad, or does it make the U.S. look even worse? Regarding the latter, I think that for the U.S. to offer over 1,000 legal rights to married people at the expense of singles is almost *more* insidiously matrimaniacal than the Saudi government’s wife-selling ideas, because at least the Saudis don’t pretend to have a culture of sexual equality and freedom for all.



1. Rachel - October 18, 2009

I assume those discussion questions are rhetorical because it’s just absurd to think that a weekend anywhere can strengthen “family ties” if the whole family doesn’t come along (you know, two sets of parents, all the cousins, their parents, their kids, their kids’ friends, oh! the spouses friends, their parents, their kids, their cousins, their kids, their parents, etc – I am sure I am forgetting many family members!). And the Saudi government obviously hasn’t heard about female terrorists… It’s sad that all this makes the US government look fairly rational in their marital support. I can only hope that these are desperate measures to save an institution that has lost credibility – otherwise I somehow got stuck in absurdity…

(Btw, I really like your definition of matrimania!)

2. Lauri - October 18, 2009

well I think it’s hard to compare the U.S. to Saudi Arabia or Malaysia. Obviously there are different cultural norms in those countries than we have here, and there is a much heavier reliance on marriage in general. The thing about the U.S. government is that it promotes matrimania to an extent beyond other *western* countries, countries where women are considered equal and there’s a separation of church and state. That’s what I think it so crazy about marriage in the country- the government gives these benefits for marriage as if we live in a middle eastern developing country, but at the same time we’re supposed to view marriage as the magical end of a german fairy tale. Make up your freaking mind, U.S. government!

Onely - October 20, 2009

You’re right, Lauri–It would be great to get some stats on how many legal rights are provided to marrieds in the US versus in, say, some European countries. (In your free time. . . ) = ) = )


3. Onadrought - October 20, 2009

Can’t think of something similar in Australia to get couples together, however, the government, in it’s quest to get people breeding, gives you more than $5500 (about $5000 US)to have a child. A baby bonus. It’s not income tested, so Nicole Kidman, being an Australian, can get it too (I’m sure she didn’t claim it).

Can you imagine what this has done to the teenage birthrate? And addicts? They think $5000 is a huge amount, but of course it can’t raise a child. Living in a country with a decent welfare system which I am all in in favour of, I just don’t think people should be given money to couple or to make babies.

Onely - October 23, 2009


4. Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles - October 27, 2009

Dear God! I just want to barf that the Saudi Arabians are selling women like chattel! Not that that’s anything new over there, but it’s so creepy when you can substitute a promise like “you too can get a free car” with “wife.” I guess any make and model will do as long as she’s not used. 😦

I do think these extreme practices make the U.S. look better, but that doesn’t mean what goes on here isn’t a problem. That’s similar to the argument that neocons haul out every time someone criticizes any aspect of America: “If you don’t like it, move to Africa.” Um, no. I’m not saying that it would be preferable to live in a third-world country. I’m saying that this country could be better.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think some other Westernized countries are even worse than the U.S. and give married couples, especially those with children, even more benefits. I support more socialized services here, but sometimes it seems like socialized services go hand in hand with more special benefits for marrieds. Wish we could have more of the former with less of the latter!

Onely - October 27, 2009

I don’t know how other countries treat their unsingles, but you can read Onadraught’s comment below about how the Australian government pays people 5,000 per baby. . .

Just for fun, I googled Chattel. Here is Electric Law’s definition (it “belongs to the person of a MAN” apparently):

CHATTEL – Personal property, movable or immovable, which is less than a freehold; for example, a book, a coat, a pencil, growing corn, a lease.

A term which includes all kinds of property except the freehold or things which are parcel of it. It is a more extensive term than goods or effects. Debtors taken in execution, captives, apprentices, are accounted chattels.

Chattels Are Personal Or Real. Personal are such as belong immediately to the person of a man; chattels real are such as either appertain not immediately to the person, but to something by way of dependency, as a box with the title deeds of lands; or such as are issuing out of some real estate, as a lease of lands, or term of years, which pass like personally to the executor of the owner

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